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Finland did not violate human rights in Iraqi asylum seeker fake death case, European court says

The European Court of Human Rights changed its decision after learning that the case was a hoax.

Syytetty ja oikeusavustajat Helsingin käräjäoikeudessa.
One of the defendants with a lawyer at Helsinki District Court earlier this year. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday said that Finland did not violate human rights after all in a case involving an Iraqi asylum seeker who was allegedly killed after being deported to Iraq.

In 2019 the ECHR ruled that Finland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights when processing the man's asylum application as his daughter claimed he was murdered shortly after being sent back to Iraq.

This was the first time Finland had been found guilty of breaching Article 2 of the convention.

Last year, evidence emerged that the death had been a con, causing Finland to request that the ECHR re-examine the case.

The ECHR said on Tuesday that it was revising its judgment based on "submissions by the Finnish government that they suspect that documents submitted by the applicant regarding her father's death had in fact been forged and that he was alive and well and living in Iraq."

In its 2019 ruling, the ECHR said Finland had not properly weighed the risks in returning the man to Iraq and ordered the state to pay damages of some 25,000 euros to the man's daughter. Finnish investigators, however, discovered the hoax before compensation was paid out.

The Iraqi man, whose fake death has been at the centre of the case, arrived in Finland in 2015 with his daughter and son. After his asylum application was rejected, he returned to his homeland in November 2017.

The man's daughter and her ex-husband have appealed the prison sentences handed down to them by Helsinki District Court in February for the scam. Their criminal case is set to continue at the Helsinki Court of Appeals.

"The system works"

Reacting to Tuesday's ruling, Helsinki University international law professor Martti Koskenniemi said that the ECHR reversing its decision should not be seen as a sign that the court is unreliable.

"The opposite is actually the case. The court was efficient in correcting its ruling, so this illustrates that the system works as it should. This is important in terms of the court's credibility."

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